A dashing display in a Sha Tin barrier trial showed promising stayer Hear The Roar had returned a better horse this campaign and could surprise over shorter journeys.
The northern hemisphere-bred four-year-old scooted away to win his 1,200m heat by 2 1/4 lengths, showing a good turn of foot in the process.
The Sean Woods-trained son of High Chaparral sat just off the speed, and unleashed a solid burst of speed in the straight after a squeeze from Derek Leung Ka-chun.
Last season Hear The Roar was produced six times, exclusively in Class Three, for a single win over 1,800m and was tried over 2,000m. His last effort, an 11th over 1,800m at Sha Tin left some question marks. The trial showed not only that he may have developed well in the off-season, but that he might have found the necessary zip to compete over 1,400m or a mile.
Penglai Xianzi showed he has returned with his mind on racing with an all-the-way win, possibly as a result of being gelded after a poor performance late last season.
The five-year-old showed ability last season, winning once and placing four times from nine starts. But he then put in an atrocious effort, after the then-stallion had become fractious behind the gates. Stewards ordered the Tony Cruz-trained galloper to trial to their satisfaction and he didn't disappoint, showing natural dash out of the gates and a high cruising speed under Matthew Chadwick. He appeared to be headed in the straight by Real Supreme - another worth watching from the Peter Ng Bik-yuen yard - but fought back to stop the clock first at 1.11.25.
Chadwick partnered another winner for Cruz on the day, Danewin Winning - a winner in Australia and yet to begin his Hong Kong career. Adding some credit to the 1,200m heat win was the fact the four-year-old had never been tried over more than 1,100m. With Chadwick pushing to the front and riding right to the line, the gelding equipped himself well, carving out sectionals of 24.8, 24.0, 24.1 for an overall time of 1.12.90. He might find life tough to start with though, beginning from a mark of 67.
A new addition to Ng's stables is Well Noted, and he showed there might be some life his nine-year-old legs yet when he finished off strongly to win his trial.
Down to a career-low mark of 47, the 72-start veteran could be very hard to beat near the bottom of Class Four, especially if his trainer can find the right race on the dirt.
Well Noted had to work hard to find the front after jumping the widest of 10 runners. He was never better than three deep, but still surged away to score by 4 1/4 lengths, albeit under strong riding by Chadwick.
Well Noted was winless last season, but was an encouraging fourth in his last run, in a Class Four in April on the all-weather track. His last win was also on the dirt, right at the end of the 2009-10 season.